Grand Rapids Christian volleyball

Volleyball

Preview: Finals Weekend Loaded with Historic Possibilities

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

November 17, 2021

While all MHSAA Finals in every sport are filled with history-making opportunities, this weekend’s Volleyball Finals at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek could require some significant updates to the record book.

Battle Creek St. Philip has defeated the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in Division 4 on the way to this weekend and can add to its record 21 Finals championships, or at least its state-best 30 appearances in championship matches.

Grand Rapids Christian in Division 2 can win a fourth-straight championship, becoming the seventh program to do so. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in Division 3 can become the 11th program to win a third-straight Finals title (and 12th on the list as Portage Northern did so twice.)

Six of the 11 Miss Volleyball Award finalists will be in Battle Creek, with winner Ava Brizard playing a lead role on a Bloomfield Hills Marian team looking to repeat in Division 1. Ann Arbor Skyline’s Harper Murray likely will be the favorite in 2022. Those seven stars certainly could make their way into the individual lists of the Finals record book.

And then there are the eight teams that have never won a Finals championship – and both Divisions 2 and 3 are guaranteed to have a team playing the last match for the first time.

Action begins Thursday with Division 1 and 4 Semifinals, with Divisions 2 and 3 on Friday and all four title matches Saturday. 

All 12 matches will be broadcast on MHSAA.tv and (audio) MHSAANetwork.com. Click for more information from the 2021 Volleyball Finals Home on the MHSAA Website.

This weekend’s schedule:

Division 4 Semifinals – Thursday
Indian River Inland Lakes vs. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, Noon
Battle Creek St. Philip vs. Allen Park Inter-City Baptist, 2 p.m.

Division 1 Semifinals - Thursday
Bloomfield Hills Marian vs. Hudsonville, 4:30 p.m.
Ann Arbor Skyline vs. Macomb Dakota, 6:30 p.m.

Division 3 Semifinals – Friday
Muskegon Western Michigan Christian vs. Reese, Noon
McBain vs. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, 2 p.m.

Division 2 Semifinals - Friday
Grand Rapids Christian vs. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, 4:30 p.m. 
North Branch vs. vs. Lake Odessa Lakewood, 6:30 p.m.

Finals – Saturday
Division 1, Noon 
Division 2, 4 p.m. 
Division 3, 2 p.m.
Division 4, 10 a.m.

Below is a glance at contenders in each division. (Statistics are through Quarterfinals for Skyline and Notre Dame Prep and Regional Finals for the rest.)

Division 1

ANN ARBOR SKYLINE
Record/rank:
54-3-2, No. 3
Coach: Chris Cristian, fifth season (190-41-8)
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-1 (Quarterfinal) and 2-1 over No. 7 Northville, 3-0 and 2-0 over honorable mention Saline, 2-1 over No. 5 Farmington Hills Mercy, 2-0 over honorable mention Davison, 2-0 over No. 9 Novi.
Players to watch: Harper Murray, 6-2 jr. OH (604 kills, .439 hitting %, 81 aces); Lauren Lee, 5-8 sr. S (1,250 assists, 82 aces, 108 kills); Cari Bohm, 6-4 sr. MH/RS (295 kills, .380 hitting %, 72 blocks).  
Finals forecast: Skyline has advanced to the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons after claiming a third-straight Regional title last week, and the Eagles have won 29 straight matches. They avenged an earlier loss to Northville and a tie to Saline, and would get a chance to avenge another defeat if they meet Hudsonville in the Final. Murray is considered one of the nation’s top juniors and made the all-state first team last season; she’s committed to continue her career at Nebraska and also played for the U-18 national team during its bronze medal run at the world championship tournament in Mexico this fall.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS MARIAN
Record/rank: 51-1, No. 1
Coach: Mayssa Cook, fourth season (172-25-3)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2020), six runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 9 Novi in Regional Semifinal, 3-0 (District Final), 3-0, 3-0 and 3-0 over No. 5 Farmington Hills Mercy, 2-0 over No. 6 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 2-0 and 2-1 over No. 4 Rockford, 2-0 and 2-0 over No. 10 Macomb Dakota, 2-0 over Division 2 No. 2 Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Ava Brizard, 6-1 sr. OH (537 kills, .440 hitting %, 51 aces); Sarah Sylvester, 6-2 sr. MB (236 kills, .442 hitting %, 87 blocks); Ava Sarafa, 6-0 jr. S (1,326 assists, 60 aces, 62 blocks).
Finals forecast: Marian has been nearly unstoppable during this repeat campaign, losing four sets all season and only one match, 2-1 to Division 2 top-ranked Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. Marian also has defeated seven of nine teams that earned honorable mention in the final regular-season coaches poll, and two more of the top five in Division 2. Brizard was named Miss Volleyball earlier this week, and Sylvester also was a finalist; they will continue their careers at North Carolina State and Texas Christian University, respectively. Brizard also made the all-state first team last season, while Sylvester and Sarafa made the second team and now-senior 6-0 hitter Sophie Treder (177 kills, 73 aces) earned an honorable mention. Total, five hitters had at least 175 kills this season entering the week.

HUDSONVILLE
Record/rank:
52-2-1, No. 2
Coach: Stephanie Chenlo, second season (74-12-1)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-1 (Quarterfinal), 3-1, 3-1, 2-0 and 2-0 over No. 4 Rockford, 3-0 (Regional Final) over honorable mention Portage Northern, 2-0 and 3-0 over honorable mention Grandville, 2-0 and 2-0 over honorable mention Byron Center, 2-0 over No. 3 Ann arbor Skyline, 2-0 over No. 6 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 2-0 over No. 9 Novi, 2-0 over honorable mention Lowell, 3-0 and 2-0 over Division 2 No. 2 Grand Rapids Christian, 2-1 over Division 2 No. 3 Lake Odessa Lakewood.
Players to watch: Eva Joldersma, 5-11 sr. OH (419 kills, 500 digs); Megan Beemer, 5-6 soph. S (697 assists, 308 digs, 55 aces); Emmalee Murphy, 5-11 sr. OH (317 kills).
Finals forecast: Hudsonville will be playing in its first Semifinal since 1981, continuing a surge under former Jenison and Aquinas College standout Chenlo. The Eagles have lost only 13 sets all season, utilizing a balanced attack with four hitters with at least 180 kills entering the week and two setters with at least 450 assists. Joldersma earned an all-state honorable mention last season, and senior libero Carlina Bender made the all-state second team and led the team with 741 digs and 78 aces heading into Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. Senior 6-1 middle blocker Leah Rogers is another solid defensive presence with 90 blocks entering the week.  

MACOMB DAKOTA
Record/rank:
31-4-1, No. 10
Coach: Neil Rucinski, third season (56-26-2)
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Championship history: Class A champion 2012.
Best wins: 2-1 and 2-0 over No. 5 Farmington Hills Mercy, 2-0 over honorable mention Davison, 2-0 over Division 2 No. 5 North Branch, 2-0 over Division 2 No. 8 Cadillac.
Players to watch: Emma Thamarus, 5-11 jr. OH (279 kills); Erin Madigan, 6-2 jr. S (828 assists, 106 kills, 57 blocks); Olivia Gardner, 6-1 jr. MH (246 kills, .380 hitting %, 73 blocks).
Finals forecast: Dakota is on the rise, returning to Kellogg Arena for the first time since its championship season after winning a Regional title for the second-straight year. Four juniors and a sophomore fill the majority of the starting lineup with senior defensive specialist Skylar Myers. Dakota has lost only one set over five postseason matches, and half its match defeats this fall were to top-ranked Marian. Another loss was late in the regular season to New Baltimore Anchor Bay, and that one was avenged in the District Semifinal.

Division 2

GRAND RAPIDS CHRISTIAN
Record/rank:
33-9, No. 2
Coach: Betsy DeVries, first season (33-9)
League finish: Third in O-K White
Championship history: Division 2 champions 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Best wins: 3-0 over honorable mention Niles in Quarterfinal, 3-0 over honorable mention Whitehall in Regional Semifinal, 3-1 over Division 1 No. 6 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 3-0, 3-1 and 2-0 over Division 1 honorable mention Byron Center, 3-0 over Division 1 honorable mention Lowell, 2-0 over Division 1 No. 2 Hudsonville, 2-1 over Division 1 No. 4 Rockford, 2-0 over Division 1 No. 5 Farmington Hills Mercy.
Players to watch: Evie Doezema, 6-3 sr. OH (701 kills, .345 hitting %, 82 blocks, 364 digs); Alyssa DeVries, 5-11 sr. S (1,074 assists, 57 aces); Kate Breems, 6-0 sr. MH (188 kills, .335 hitting %, 105 blocks).
Finals forecast: Not many teams could graduate two all-state first teamers and be a favorite again, but Grand Rapids Christian is back seeking a fourth-straight championship. The Eagles have lost only one set across six postseason matches after navigating a regular-season schedule loaded with top Division 1 teams. Alyssa DeVries and Doezema made the all-state second team last season, and Doezema was a Miss Volleyball finalist this fall and will continue at Michigan State. Betsy DeVries previously led Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian to the Class C Quarterfinals in 2015.

LAKE ODESSA LAKEWOOD
Record/rank:
40-12, No. 3
Coach: Cameron Rowland, fourth season (168-37-2)
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference
Championship history: Class B champion 2012, six runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 2-1 over No. 6 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 2-0 over honorable mention Grand Rapids West Catholic, 3-1 over Division 1 honorable mention Lowell, 2-1 over Division 1 honorable mention Byron Center.
Players to watch: Maradith O’Gorman, 6-2 sr. OH (642 kills, .398 hitting %, 128 blocks, 445 digs); Skylar Bump, 5-8 jr. S/OH (540 assists, 250 kills, 85 aces, 317 digs); Carley Piercefield, 5-6 jr. DS (731 digs, 113 assists, 66 aces).
Finals forecast: The Vikings have finished Division 2 runners-up the last two seasons and five of the last seven (including in the former Class B), and four starters plus the libero Piercefield are back from last season’s championship match lineup. O’Gorman was a Miss Volleyball finalist and will play next at Michigan State, and Bump set last season’s team and this fall has split time setting and hitting with freshman Abby Pickard (529 assists) also helping fill out the starting lineup. O’Gorman made the all-state first team last season, and Bump and Piercefield made the second. Eight of the team’s losses this fall came to teams ranked among the top 10 or earning honorable mention in Division 1.

NORTH BRANCH
Record/rank:
45-8, No. 5
Coach: Jim Fish, 22nd season (1,217-211-51)
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 8 Cadillac in Quarterfinal, 3-0 over No. 10 Essexville Garber in Regional Semifinal, 2-0 and 2-0 over No. 9 Frankenmuth, 2-1 and 2-0 over Division 1 No. 9 Novi, 2-0 over Division 1 honorable mention Clarkston, 2-0 over Division 3 No. 2 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.
Players to watch: Alana Deshetsky, soph. OH (302 kills, 68 aces, 348 digs); Adrienne Greschaw, 5-8 soph. S (1,107 assists, 64 aces); Bailey Gormley, 5-8 jr. OH (280 kills, 329 digs).
Finals forecast: The Broncos are headed back to Battle Creek for the first time since their most recent championship season, and with a lineup that could keep them coming back over the next few years as well. All six starters plus libero Hailey Green (744 digs, 75 aces) are sophomores or juniors; Deshetsky and Green earned all-state honorable mentions last season as freshmen. Five hitters had at least 194 kills entering the week, and 6-2 sophomore Kaela Chingwa was among that group and also had a team-high 108 blocks.

PONTIAC NOTRE DAME PREP
Record/rank:
62-1, No. 1
Coach: Betty A. Wroubel, 27th season (1,203-241-96)
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), Division 2 runner-up 2018.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 4 Detroit Country Day in Quarterfinal, 2-0 over honorable mention Lansing Catholic, 2-1 over No. 5 North Branch, 2-0 over No. 9 Frankenmuth, 2-0 over No. 8 Cadillac, 2-1 over Division 1 No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 2-1 over Division 1 honorable mention Byron Center, 2-0 and 2-0 over Division 1 honorable mention Lake Orion, 2-0 over Division 1 honorable mention Portage Northern, 2-0 over Division 1 honorable mention Clarkston.
Players to watch: Aly Borellis, 5-11 sr. S/RS (386 kills, .498 hitting %, 625 assists), Bianca Giglio, 5-9 sr. M (420 kills, .369 hitting %), Josephine Bloom, 5-6 sr. DS (697 digs, 124 aces).
Finals forecast: Loaded with experienced players, and despite some recent injuries, Notre Dame Prep enters the weekend having lost only five sets and with its lone match defeat to Division 1 No. 5 Farmington Hills Mercy. Borellis and Bloom were Miss Volleyball finalists; they will play next at Mississippi and Virginia Tech, respectively. Borellis made the all-state first team last season, Bloom made the second, Giglio and senior outside hitter Sophia Sudzina (389 kills, .330 hitting %) made the third team and junior setting Margo Sudzina (566 assists, 70 aces) earned honorable mention. Total, six hitters have at least 175 kills, three have at least 300 assists and four have at least 60 blocks. Juniors Allison Berent (124 aces, 350 digs) and Grace Wenaas (227 kills, 113 blocks) and seniors Abigail Nellis (191 kills, 88 blocks) and Sara Nouhan (175 kills) also are among possible starters.

Division 3

MCBAIN
Record/rank:
36-4-1, honorable mention
Coach: Shawn Murphy, 12th season (345-183-37)
League finish: First in Highland Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 6 Calumet in Quarterfinal, 3-0 (Regional Final) and 2-1 over Beaverton, 2-0 over Elk Rapids, 2-1 over Division 2 No. 9 Frankenmuth.
Players to watch: Analiese Fredin, 5-7 jr. S (1,061 assists, 170 kills, 65 aces); Linde VanderVlucht, 6-1 jr. MB (192 kills, .319 hitting %, 50 blocks); Gabrielle VerBerkmoes, 6-1 jr. MB (292 kills, .385 hitting %, 55 blocks)
Finals forecast: McBain is making its second trip to the Semifinals and first since 2009; Murphy also coached that team and is in the fourth season of his second tenure leading the program. VanderVlucht earned an all-state honorable mention last season, and the Ramblers have a number of options on offense. Seniors Emma Schierbeek (328) and Jersey Scott (309) were tops entering the week among six players with at least 150 kills, and Schierbeek also was a team leader with 237 digs. McBain has won 21 straight matches, and the Quarterfinal win over Calumet avenged their first defeat of the season. The other three losses were to Division 2 opponents, and the Ramblers have lost only 17 sets total.  

MONROE ST. MARY CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank:
35-11, No. 2
Co-coaches: Karen O’Brien, seventh season (277-55-3); Cassandra Haut, first season (35-11)
League finish: First in Huron League
Championship history: Seven MHSAA titles (most recent 2020), three runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 3 Pewamo-Westphalia in Quarterfinal, 3-2 over honorable mention Brooklyn Columbia Central in Regional Final, 3-1 over honorable mention Adrian Madison in District Final, 2-1 over Division 1 honorable mention Saline, 2-0 over Division 1 honorable mention Clarkston.
Players to watch: Kate Collingsworth, 5-10 sr. S/DS (1,021 assists, 66 aces, 346 digs); McKenna Payne, 5-7 fr. OH/DS (465 kills, .370 hitting %, 86 aces, 360 digs); Jessica Costlow, 5-10 fr. OH/MH (414 kills, .380 hitting %, 274 digs).
Finals forecast: SMCC has won the last two Division 3 championships, and this is another contender that graduated a lot – in this case two all-state outside hitters and two more all-state middles – but has returned to the final weekend. Collingsworth made the all-state third team last season and is setting primarily a pair of freshmen, with senior MH/RS Audrey Cousino (290 kills, 79 blocks) also a significant contributor offensively and defensively. SMCC is another program that loads its schedule with much larger opponents, and 10 losses came against Division 1 teams with the 11th to Division 2 contender North Branch.

MUSKEGON WESTERN MICHIGAN CHRISTIAN
Record/rank:
49-5, No. 1
Coach: Trent Smillie, seventh season (219-109-11)
League finish: First in Lakes 8 Activities Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-1 over honorable mention Morley Stanwood in Regional Semifinal, 2-0 over honorable mention Kalamazoo Christian, 2-0 over No. 8 Cass City, 3-2 over Division 2 honorable mention Whitehall, 2-0 over Division 4 No. 3 Battle Creek St. Philip, 2-1 over Division 4 No. 1 Adrian Lenawee Christian.
Players to watch: Kyla Wiersema, 6-1 sr. MB (618 kills, .316 hitting %, 146 blocks, 340 digs); Kendal Young, 5-7 jr. S (1,372 assists, 321 digs); Madison Wiersema, 6-1 sr. OPP (261 kills, 149 blocks, 465 digs).
Finals forecast: Western Michigan Christian will be playing in its first Semifinal, and only one of its losses this season came to a Division 3 team (No. 4 Bronson). The Warriors have been building toward this under Smillie, with this run also including a fourth-straight league title and second District and Regional championships in three seasons. Kyla Wiersema made the all-state second team last season and leads a starting lineup that has three seniors but also two freshmen. Total six hitters had at least 130 kills entering the week, and senior Elizabeth Bast (214 kills, 124 blocks) plays a major role.

REESE
Record/rank:
33-5-1, No. 9
Coach: Angie Compton, third season (75-23-2)
League finish: First in Greater Thumb Conference West
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-2 (Regional Final) and 3-2 over No. 8 Cass City, 3-1 (District Final) and 2-0 over No. 5 Saginaw Valley Lutheran, 2-1 over Birch Run, 2-0 over Division 4 No. 7 Ubly.
Players to watch: Maddi Osantowski, 5-9 sr. OH (545 kills, 384 digs, 49 aces); Aydan Dalak, 5-7 sr. S (281 kills, 836 assists, 258 digs); Josie Johnson, 5-5 sr. DS (474 digs, 43 aces).
Finals forecast: Reese is making its second trip to the Semifinals and first since 2010, after adding a second-straight league title under Compton – who previously coached at Houghton Lake and Roscommon. Osantowski and Dalak earned all-state honorable mentions last season, and they lead a starting lineup featuring five seniors. Only one loss this fall was to a Division 3 team – No. 8 Cass City – and the Rockets had won their first of two regular-season matchups with the Red Hawks and then avenged the defeat last week.

Division 4

ALLEN PARK INTER-CITY BAPTIST
Record/rank:
25-3-1, unranked
Coach: Amanda McLanahan, third season (record N/A)
League finish: Second in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 7 Ubly in Quarterfinal, 3-1 over No. 8 Plymouth Christian Academy in Regional Final, 3-1 (Regional Semifinal), 3-1 and 3-2 over No. 6 Auburn Hills Oakland Christian.
Players to watch: Bethany Estell, sr. OH (241 kills, .379 hitting %); Evelyn Karamon, sr. S (684 assists); Ali Bettinger, sr. M (216 kills, .346 hitting %, 54 blocks). (Heights not provided.)  
Finals forecast: Inter-City Baptist won its first Regional title since 2011 and is making its first trip to the Semifinals, and made some loud statements along the way with three wins over top-10 opponents over the last two weeks. The Plymouth Christian Academy victory avenged two regular-season losses; the third defeat came against Division 1 Dearborn Divine Child. The Chargers played and defeated a number of other larger schools during the regular season, and haven’t given up more than a set during a current 14-match winning streak.

BATTLE CREEK ST. PHILIP
Record/rank:
38-11-1, No. 3
Coach: Vicky Groat, 24th season (1,217-305-80)
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association West
Championship history: 21 MHSAA titles (most recent 2020), nine runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 1 Adrian Lenawee Christian in Quarterfinal, 3-2 (Regional Final) and 3-0 over No. 2 Athens, 2-0 and 2-1 over No. 10 Mendon.
Players to watch: Brooke Dzwik, 5-9 sr. OH (651 kills, .332 hitting %, 80 aces, 385 digs); Rachel Myers, 5-7 sr. S (1,160 assists, 246 digs); Baily Fancher, 5-5 sr. L (514 digs).
Finals forecast: St. Philip won its first Finals title since 2014 last season, and five starters are back seeking to finish a repeat run. Dzwik went over 2,000 career kills this fall after making the all-state first team last season, while Fancher made the third team. Junior middle Maddie Hoelscher, another returning starter, had 216 kills entering the week, and three more Tigers had at least 100 kills. The Quarterfinal win over Lenawee Christian avenged a regular-season loss, and the other defeats were either to Division 3 top-ranked Western Michigan Christian and Division 1 or 2 teams.

INDIAN RIVER INLAND LAKES
Record/rank: 26-10-11, unranked
Coach: Nicole Moore, second season (42-28-14)
League finish: Second in Ski Valley Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-2 (Regional Semifinal) and 3-0 over Onaway, 3-1 over Pellston, 2-0 over Mackinaw City.
Players to watch: Natalie Wandrie, 5-10 jr. OH (44 kills, 354 digs); Olivia Monthei, 5-4 sr. OH (260 kills, 70 aces, 329 digs); Alyssa Byrne, 5-4 sr. S (962 assists, 62 aces).
Finals forecast: Inland Lakes is traveling to the Semifinals for the first time after last week winning its first Regional title since 1995. The Bulldogs entered the postseason on a 3-2-5 run but didn’t give up a set over three District matches and avenged one of those two late losses with the Regional Semifinal win over Onaway. They’ve won District titles both seasons under Moore, who previously coached the subvarsity levels at Petoskey. Libero Ryann Clancy (597 digs, 78 aces) is another key junior.

MOUNT PLEASANT SACRED HEART
Record/rank:
35-5-4, No. 9
Coach: Krista Davis, eighth season (243-109-32)
League finish: First in Mid-State Activities Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 5 Traverse City Christian in Quarterfinal, 2-0 over honorable mention Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 2-0 over Fowler, 2-1 over Beal City.
Players to watch: Maddie Munley, 6-1 sr. MH (357 kills, .445 hitting %, 64 blocks); Angel Brown, 5-9 jr. OH (233 kills, 188 digs); Delaney Scully, 5-7 sr. S (517 assists, 61 aces).
Finals forecast: Sacred Heart also is a first-time Semifinals qualifier, taking the next step after falling just short in seven Quarterfinals over the last decade. The Irish have only one loss to a Division 4 team this fall, having split a pair of regular-season matches with Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. Munley made the all-state second team last season and leads a contender that’s given up only two sets during a nine-match winning streak. Davis was a three-time volleyball state champion growing up in Illinois, an All-America third-team selection at Southeast Missouri State and served as an assistant coach helping Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., to a Division III national title and two runner-up finishes.

PHOTO Grand Rapids Christian's Rowan Cebulski (5) gets both hands on a block during her team's Division 2 Regional Final win over Hudsonville Unity Christian. (Photo by Jamie McNinch Photography.)